It’s been a long time coming but Celtic were once again confirmed as the Scottish Premiership champions earlier in the month. It means that the Glasgow giants have now won six top-flight league titles in a row.
So I thought I’d look at six key factors that have helped Celtic in becoming an almost unstoppable force within the Scottish game.
NEW MANAGER/NEW FOCUS
You can’t take away Ronny Deila’s two league triumphs but you often got the sense that Celtic were in cruise control under the Norwegian coach, at times it even seemed as though Celtic were trying to gift Aberdeen a chance at taking the league title.
Under Deila, a lot of the squad seemed to lose their way and didn’t have the hunger to really dominate the league.
That all changed when Brendan Rodgers walked in the front door at Celtic Park last summer. The former Liverpool boss, unlike Deila, didn’t seem daunted by the club’s size and actually relished the opportunity to take the team forward.
Rodgers gives Celtic a figurehead and a boss that demands success. He’s also gained the respect from his players and managed to get them to produce much better performances and to do so week in and week out. The players no longer go through the paces for their gaffer, they now go through walls to impress the boss.
Sometimes he’s a bit too enthusiastic when talking about his players and their performances, the Barca 7-0 thumping springs to mind but you have to remember that he’s doing that to get more from his players and it’s worked.
Just look at his domestic successes with the club; they’ve already secured the Premiership trophy and the League Cup, they are still on course for a domestic treble as they are still in the Scottish Cup and they have yet to lose a game to a fellow Scottish side.
His recent new four year deal shows that he sees a future at Parkhead and I imagine that future will see some big business in the transfer market, more trophies and prolonged adventures in Europe.
As I’ve already mentioned, Celtic are still to taste defeat against Scottish opposition.
They’ve gone unbeaten in their thirty-two league encounters, winning twenty-nine of them and just drawing three. They secured the League Cup in late November and are into the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup.
The squad have obviously developed a never die attitude and even in games that they’ve looked off pace (not often) they’ve managed to find goals to secure a win or a draw at the very least. It’s extremely impressive, especially when you factor in the fact that they have led the title race for so long and by so many points. Many a team in those circumstances allows themselves an off day or loses focus but not this side, they seem determined to grab themselves a famous treble without losing a domestic fixture all season.
GOALS GOALS GOALS
Celtic have certainly impressed going forward this season.
New recruits Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele hit the ground running and have both scored plenty of goals. Sinclair has bagged himself twenty league strikes so far and that’s enough to see him leading the Premiership’s scoring charts. Meanwhile young French hotshot Dembele has a seventeen goal league return, which includes a hat-trick against Old Firm foes Rangers.
The goals haven’t just came from the frontmen either. Midfielder Stuart Armstrong has helped himself to thirteen league goals, while James Forrest and Tom Rogic have found the net six times apiece.
In their opening thirty-two Premiership games, the Hoops have scored a whopping 85 times!
That’s twenty-four more than their nearest rivals Aberdeen. Brendan’s squad haven’t failed to score in any of their domestic fixtures so far in this campaign.
Celtic possess a slick passing side, with plenty of pace and a killer instinct.
A SCOTTISH CORE
Celtic have finally managed to incorporate a solid group of Scottish players that start most matches and that’s a good thing not just for the local fanbase but also for the Scottish national team.
Club captain Scott Brown has been fantastic since the start of the season and seems to relish playing for Rodgers. Brown often looked sluggish and jaded under Deila but he’s now once again bossing midfield battles and a real leader on the park that seems to get more from his teammates.
As I’ve already stated, Stuart Armstrong is playing regularly now and scoring plenty of valuable goals. His fine form has seen him win a place in Gordon Strachan’s national team and he has just won the league’s player of the month for March.
Winger James Forrest has once again looked like a top player under Rodgers. He was another one who seemed to have lost his way under Deila but he’s stayed clear of injuries this term, scored some goals and been consistently better!
After a bit of a ropey start to the season, it seemed as though Craig Gordon’s future at Parkhead was fast becoming uncertain. But the Scot soon regained his place between the sticks and has once again proved himself to be a top-class goalkeeper. His string of superb displays saw him linked with a move to Premier League supremos Chelsea but Brendan Rodgers swiftly turned down the English sides approaches and tied Gordon down to a new long-term deal.
Then you have left-back Kieran Tierney. The international teen must be one of Europe’s brightest prospects. He continually puts in stunning performances and seems to get better with every minute he plays. No matter the challenge, Tierney seems intent on meeting it head on and proving his worth for the team.
While we can applaud Celtic for all the good that they’ve done this term, we cannot overlook the fact that their rivals haven’t been good enough or consistent enough this season.
Much was made of Rangers coming into Scotland’s top flight once again, but they have since struggled to lay down any marker worth noting. They sacked or accepted the resignation of boss Mark Warburton in February. During his tenure at the club’s helm Warburton struggled against rivals away from Ibrox and that poor run only worsened in the top tier of Scottish football. Defensively they always looked too fragile to sustain a proper challenge on the title.
Hearts also changed their boss during the season and have struggled to cope with the various personnel changes that happened over the winter period. They look like a squad in transition and they like Rangers will need to forget this season and work towards more consistency.
Aberdeen have been the best of the rest. Winning twenty out of their thirty-two matches has been impressive but losing eight has cost them too many points and they were out of the title picture far too early in my opinion. Derek McInnes has at least got continuity on his side and their squad looks strong compared to most in Scotland. The Dons won all of their games in March but they need longer winning spells and to start a seas0n off with a bang, if they truly want to become title contenders.
I wanted to end it with a Celtic positive.
The Parkhead club have by far and away the best squad in the country, no matter what Pedro Caixinha says or thinks.
When you look around it’s hard to see what player from any other Scottish team walks straight into this Celtic side.
Rodgers has changed his defensive partnerships a lot this season and no matter what duo play, they usually come away with the win. Some will say that the centre of defence is Celtic’s weakest area, yet they’ve only conceded twenty times in the league this term!
There seems to be adequate replacements that can come in and play well whenever called upon. That speaks volumes for Rodgers, his coaching staff and for the recruitment team at Celtic Park.
If these key factors remain the same for the foreseeable future then ten in a row is a distinct possibility for this group of Celtic stars!
Posted on April 11th, 2017 by scott
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